Dan's birthday is today, and he requested a carrot cake. That's fun for me because it's been more than 10 years since I've made one!
I think I've mentioned before that I was a baker at the now-defunct Encore Cafe in Bloomington in the mid-1990s. Carrot cake was one of the staples there. (Of course, when it comes to baking, I think it's all about the oven. The ovens at Encore were fantastic, cooking things evenly and steadily. I think they were from France.)
I should have snatched a couple Encore recipes while I had the chance; I would love to make the cilantro pesto and chocolate mousse. Alas, this recipe is from allrecipes.com, a site that's hit or miss for me. I chose this one because the reviews were consistently positive, and it really only differs from the recipe in my Better Homes and Gardens New Cook Book -- a very trusted source -- because it includes pecans.
Carrot cake (makes one 9-by-13-inch cake, or two round cake pans)*
1-1/4 cups vegetable oil
2 cups sugar
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
2 cups all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking soda
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
3 cups grated carrots
1 cup chopped pecans
1.) Grease and flour cake pan(s).
2.) Beat eggs, oil, sugar and 2 teaspoons vanilla extract in a bowl. Mix in flour, baking soda, baking powder, salt, and cinnamon.
3.) Stir in the carrots, then gently fold in the pecans.
4.) Pour batter into pan(s).
5.) Bake in a preheated 350-degree oven for 40-50 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean.
6.) Cool cake in pan(s) for 10 minutes, then remove and cool on a wire rack completely.
Cream cheese frosting
1/2 cup butter, softened
8 ounces cream cheese, softened
4 cups confectioners' sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
optional: 1 cup chopped pecans
1.) While the cake is cooling, combine butter, cream cheese, confectioners' sugar and 1 teaspoon vanilla extract in a bowl. Beat until smooth and creamy.
2.) Frost cake, and if using two round cakes, stack them after frosting on top of the bottom cake. Frost completely around.
3.) If you want, use your hand to stick handfuls of chopped pecans around the side of the cake.
* And take it from me: Don't try to bake it in a smaller pan... I had a disastrous first attempt at this, and I will share photos to prove it. That's why this is a half a cake! Look for that tomorrow...